With this Palme d’Or–winning drama, which deftly combines seemingly disparate genres, French filmmaker Jacques Audiard cemented his status as one of the titans of contemporary world cinema. In an arresting performance, the nonprofessional actor Antonythasan Jesuthasan (himself a former child soldier) stars as a Tamil fighter who, along with a woman and child posing as his wife and daughter, flees war-torn Sri Lanka only to land in a Paris suburb riddled with drugs. As the makeshift family embarks on a new life, Dheepan settles into an intimate social-realist mode, before tightening, gradually and organically, into a dynamic turf-war thriller, as well as an unsettling study of the psychological aftereffects of combat. Searing and sensitive, Audiard’s film is a unique depiction of the refugee experience as a continuous crisis of identity.
Back in 2015, Dheepan won the acclaimed Palme d'Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival, which was met with critical praise and marked another win for the filmmaker Jacques Audiard (A Prophet, Rust and Bone). This film is more subtle and has more of a slow burn than his previous work, but perfectly shows how people learn to adapt to horrific situations and lifestyles, while also showcasing two very different yet similar wars and conflicts.
Based on a true story, Dheepan follows a soldier in Sri Lanka who, after a battle, looks to escape from a refugee camp to a better place and life in France, free of persecution of religion, race, and gender. In order to escape through customs, this soldier must find a woman and child to resemble a family with a backstory. The soldier, now known as Dheepan, with his faux wife Yalini and their daughter Illayaal arrive safely in France while sticking to their story, but are now the caretakers of a slum housing project that is inhabited by gangs and drug lords.
Meanwhile, Illayaal is trying to fit in with her classmates and learn the native language. As the rival gangs and drug lords become violent and spill blood, this makeshift family must test their wits and lives in order to survive. As you can see, once Deephan and his new friends are escaping one aspect of horror and terror, they are thrown into another version of it in another location, due to similar government proceedings and people in power taking advantage of the immigrants or disadvantaged people. Where the government forces in Sri Lanka killed people due to their religion, the government and law enforcement in France are unable to keep the bad neighborhoods in check, mostly letting crime run rampant without any consequences.
Forced into this life, Deephan, Yalini, and Illayaal must make the best of it. Audiard uses no-name actors here to give a big sense of realism into his lens, which plays to full effect. Their emotions and delivery is spot on and at sometimes horrifying, which are all a pleasure to watch on screen. Despite some flaws with the ending that seemed to not follow in the footsteps of what came before it, you can see why Audiard wanted to use it, which is perhaps to give hope. Deephan is a fantastic, heavy-handed film, and is easy to see why it won the major award at Cannes in 2015.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Deephan comes with a 50GB Blu-ray Disc from Criterion and is Region A Locked. There is a Criterion booklet with an essay by Michael Atkinson, along with information on the crew and technical information on the film. There is also a mini comic book included as well. The disc is housed in a hard clear, plastic case with spine #871.
Dheepan comes with a great 1080p HD transfer and is presented in its original 2.40:1 aspect ratio. The film was shot digitally and was made in 2015, hence there's not a ton of "About the Transfer" information here, like there usually is with older Criterion films. A lot of the film is shot on location with natural light, which looks amazing.
Detail is sharp and vivid throughout, showcasing excellent textures in the actor's faces and their clothing. Individual hairs, facial pores, and wrinkles show up nicely. The wider shots of the shoddy housing and worn buildings in the background look great as well, with every imperfection and piece of dirt becoming distinguishable.
Colors look excellent too, but I wouldn't say this is a bright and vibrant film by any means. Some of the wardrobe and household items showcase some bright primary colors, but other than that, colors are moody and earthy, giving a realistic look to the film. Black levels are deep and inky throughout with zero crush and the skin tones are always natural. There was no major evidence of any banding, aliasing, or other compression issues, leaving this video presentation with great marks.
This release comes with a lossless French DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix with English subtitles. This audio track was mastered from the original digital master using Pro Tools HD. The sound effects are realistic and full, but never blown out of proportion like a Michael Bay film. Ambient noises are full as well of nature and city sounds that fill up the soundscape
Dialogue is clear and easy to follow along with the English subtitles and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or shrills here. The heavier action moments in the film provide a great low end with good bass that never crosses into rocky territory. This is a solid audio track.
Audio Commentary - Director Jacques Audiard and screenwriter Noe Debre discuss the film in French with English subtitles. The two discuss the origin of the film, how they brought it to the big screen, the actors and casting, and filming on location. It's a great listen for fans of the film.
Interview with Jacques Audiard (HD, 22 Mins.) - This is a new interview with the director of the film, where he discusses making the film movie, working with the actors, the political and social climate, and much more. Interesting interview.
Interview with Antonythasan Jesuthasan (HD, 22 Mins.) - The actor/writer talks about his time in the film, his true life story of being in the military, growing up in Sri Lanka and coming to France. Fantastic interview here.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 9 Mins.) - Here are a few deleted scenes with optional commentary by Audiard and Debre with English subtitles. These scenes are worth watching for sure, but aren't necessary for the final cut.
Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - Trailer for the film.
Criterion Booklet - A fully illustrated booklet with cast and crew info, tech specs, and an essay on the film by Michael Atkinson.
Criterion has knocked it out of the park yet again with Deephan. The film itself still has a strong hold on emotions and will leave you discussing the social and political climate of our nation as well as foreign nations for days, in hopes for a better life for people seeking refuge from persecution into safe environments. Everything is stellar about this movie. The video and audio presentations are both great and the extras are all worth watching, leaving this release Highly Recommended!